New regulations for smoke shops in Buffalo, crackdown on illegal stores

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Buffalo’s Common Council is cracking down on illegal smoke shops in the city. It will require all current and future stores to get a license from the city, as well as show proof of a state registration as a tobacco and-or vape retailer.

This comes just days after Governor Kathy Hochul announced a new enforcement strategy for illegal pot shops in New York State. The goal is to make sure all shops are legally operating to put everyone on the same playing field.

“If you want to open a food store and sell a gallon of milk you need a license,” South District Councilman Chris Scanlon told News 4.

The new licensing process will ensure these types of shops are selling safe and consumable products without disrupting communities.

“This really allows us to look at the business, look how it fits within the guides of entire community, and give residents some input. It is not an attack on businesses, smoke shops, but it’s an opportunity to be able to regulate,” Lovejoy District Councilman Bryan Bollman said.

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The city license will be $200 and will be granted through the Department of Permits and Inspection. Before a shop is given a license, it will go up for a public hearing and needs council approval. The goal of these regulations is to stop underage sales, make sure products are safe for consumption, and eliminate unlicensed shops from popping up across the city.

“What we are doing is making sure that we have everyone in the City of Buffalo who wants to operate one of these facilities make sure they are doing so in a proper manner, especially with the anticipation of more licenses coming from the Office of Cannabis Management,” Scanlon added.

As more cannabis licenses are issued by New York State and additional enforcement guidelines are passed by the legislature, the council says it is ready to crack down on illegal pot shops, too.

“It’s important to make sure that we have these processes and procedures and we are preparing for the future. This isn’t an anti-cannabis thing,” Bollman continued.

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“The goal here is to not be over burdensome. The goal here is to work in unison with the Office of Cannabis Management to make sure first and foremost everything is safe. The operation of any establishment is not disrupting a neighborhood,” Scanlon concluded.

These new licensing requirements are now in effect. Shops can apply through the department of permits and inspection.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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